Kelly's Korner: The Opioid Epidemic is a Major Concern…Yes. But There Are Others…
Recent entertainment news stories have been chock full of actors in frank, open and honest conversation about their issues with alcohol addiction and some with mental health as well. I have been especially moved by interviews done with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga regarding their movie “Star is Born” and Ben Affleck regarding his Netflix release of “Triple Frontier”. Cooper has been in recovery for many years, Affleck speaks about the ongoing challenges he faces with alcohol abuse and both Cooper and Lady Gaga speak about issues with depression and other mental health issues they relate to. I am especially grateful for the conversation. I am grateful that they are calling attention to another very real dimension of Substance Use Disorder and alcoholism. While the opioid epidemic is an unparalleled concern for our community and across the nation, alcoholism is – always has been and remains – a major concern and arguably, alcoholism is also an epidemic. Take a look at the following statistics and decide for yourself.
The website www.facingaddiction.org reports the following:
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States.
17.6 million people – one in every 12 adults – suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder or alcohol dependence.
Alcohol addiction is the 3rd leading lifestyle related cause of death in the nation.
88,000 U.S. deaths are attributable to excessive alcohol use each year.
40% of all hospital beds in the United States are being used to treat health conditions related to alcohol consumption.
Furthermore, experts agree that problems with alcohol are often prevalent among people who grew up in a home where heavy drinking or alcohol use was considered “normal”. A family history of alcohol misuse is the single most influential factor that can predict alcohol addiction. This becomes especially concerning when we consider the estimated number of children – more than 7 million – who are living in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has severely misused alcohol. The number of potential lives affected by alcoholism becomes absolutely staggering when we add these young people into the total.
So back to famous folks who share their personal stories – their testimonies. We owe each of them a debt of gratitude. Gratitude for all the young women (and men) who will watch the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the newest version of A Star Is Born and romanticize the relationship they see on the screen – longing for their own relationship with an attraction that appears so deep, so palpable, so powerful – and yet, at the end of the day, as the movie demonstrates, so unhealthy on many levels. Bradley Cooper has spoken about how much he related to his character, Jackson Maine, whose battle with alcoholism is evident throughout the movie. Cooper himself is very open and honest about his own struggles with alcoholism and depression. Today, with 15 years in recovery, he says he owes his life and career to his sobriety. Like Jackson Maine, Cooper’s career was beginning to backslide because of his substance abuse. He talks about his descent into alcoholism being fast and painful and his ascent once he began his process of recovery as one that was life changing and satisfying in ways he could never have imagined. In the midst of both starring in and directing the movie A Star Is Born, Cooper said his struggles came right back to him – front, center and real, yet he remains confident in sobriety and committed to staying right there – sober.
Ben Affleck was interviewed about his upcoming Netflix release, and when the question of his alcoholism came up, he said, “Battling addiction is a lifelong and difficult struggle. Because of that, one is never really in or out of treatment. It is a lifelong commitment that I am fighting for myself and my family.” His path has not been smooth - as so often is the case with addiction – but he is willing to admit this and stay the course. Another great example of a famous actor – so often looked up to and revered – appropriately role modeling honesty in his real-life challenges and calling attention to alcohol as a major concern for our community and our nation. And I, for one, believe it is just that – a major concern for our community and our nation.